1.15.2010

Neighborhood Schools

The high today is going to be in the upper 40s. We're in the middle of a warm up, albeit temporary, which is great. That means a nice walk to school.

Yes, my kids walk to school. We live less than a mile away from our local school.

And despite the reports touting how public schools are suddenly more attractive that private schools for economic reasons, I will say that location was our #1 initial consideration in choosing our public school. We were very interested in the idea of a neighborhood school.

My daughter started out at a private school that could not be called a neighborhood school. Not only was it a drive for us (albeit not a long drive), it was a drive for most of the students at the school - I think one parent rode her bike. So, every morning, we got up, got packed up and piled in the car to go to school. And every afternoon, I would get in the car to go get her.

There was no time for after school lessons or sports. We didn't get back in time to do the ones closest to our house and the ones nearest the school ended far too late (and our daughter didn't know anyone on those teams). Worst of all, scheduling play dates with friends was a hassle - some of the kids at the school lived more than an hour away.

While I loved the school, the routine was a bit odd. It felt more like my daughter was going to work, rather than kindergarten. There was very little social interaction outside of the school among the classmates and our neighborhood was quickly becoming segregated by school, even at the playground.

I had to believe that this wasn't the norm. It certainly wasn't how I grew up. And it wasn't how my husband grew up.

The funny thing was that we passed our neighborhood school every morning on the drive to the private school. Wouldn't it be great, I thought, just to drop her off here?

But we didn't stop. We kept driving by. We did it because we had been programmed to believe that Philadelphia schools are bad.

I had to believe that wasn't the case. So I did the same thing for the public school that I did for the private school: I checked it out. I talked to parents. I went on a tour (actually, I went on three tours). I researched test scores. I met with the principal. And (gasp) it was good.

We are now in the second year of our public school experiment. And almost every day, we now walk to the same school that we used to drive by. Our mornings are much less hectic - sometimes, even pleasant - since there's no frantic rush to get into the car and then maneuver through traffic or any pressure to get ready to catch a bus. We simply put on our backpacks and walk.

My kids now participate in after school clubs and local sports lessons. There's time to hang out on the playground and socialize after class, with no worries about an impending rush hour or missing the last bus home.

It's a huge change from before. It's how I think a school should be. There's something to be said for a neighborhood school.

1 comment:

  1. I appreciate your perspective a lot. I wrote a similar article a few months ago from the perspective of how sending your child to a neighborhood public school improves his or her life in the neighborhood. Here it is:

    http://pamp.playborhood.com/site/article/the_kindergarten_decisions_neighborhood_public_school_or_not/

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